Friday, November 4, 2011

The Magician's Veil: Part One

"The Magician's Veil: Part One"
the beginning of something by jake kilroy.

The steam of the city came from every crack. It was the hottest month of the year and the poor of the downtown, an area known only as The Gray, knew it better than anyone. The Gray hid in the broken heart of the skyline, though it felt like the edge of civilization. Hissing and whistling came from the grates and the walls, as the water below them shook desperately to escape.

A young man by the name of Squile, pronounced "skill," left his block in search of a magician. As he kicked the cans of the alleyways and the dirt of the backroads, tucked away by the bridge, he felt the violent dreams coming back. Flashes of light careened in his head, bouncing off his ears and piercing his eyes with what he could only explain as "spiritual visions." Without any money, his family suggested he go in search of a magician, as the chance of affording a physician was slim, if not impossible.

Squile ducked through the sewer systems to make haste, tossing a switch blade in his hands for rats and thieves. He whistled his neighborhood's anthem, so any creeping sharp grins would know he was from the dirtiest of districts, making him the dirtiest of fighters. Now, on the other side of the water, Squile jumped through a pipe that had been set up as a hidden slide into an underground poker room. He slid, dragging his blade against the concrete towards the end to slow him down just enough to keep his stride when he hit the plank wood of a tavern's cellar. Several men played cards at a table nearby. They hardly noticed him.

This burrough, known only as The Range, was considerably cleaner than Squile's stake of city land, but it was the lowest level of interest for the other side of the river. Squile went up the stairs, kicked open the door and meandered through the bar of restless street tycoons. Broken bottles filled the trash cans, the bartender had a small arsenal beneath the counter and most of the crowd wore bowler hats with no smiles to match. It was loud and awful, but Squile moseyed through, still whistling his proud district tune. The locales knew him, but not by anything more than "kid." Squile was neatly dressed, or as fashionable as one could be from The Gray. Wearing a thin three-piece suit with shorts instead of pants, as pants were much more expensive in the city's tailor shops and a sign of class, Squile was as fancy as he figured he'd ever look. He was on the street and finally stopped tossing his knife in the air. Instead, he took in The Range.

Nearly everything in The Range was painted a shade of white or brown. The cobblestone streets were brown, the buildings were brown, both the horses and carriages were brown. One thing after another was either white or brown. The windows were white, the sky was white, the dresses were white. Squile nodded to nobody and stepped off the tavern's porch, slipping his sharp toy into his coat pocket.

Sunset was soon approaching, as the crew of lamplighters put the candles to work. Squile heard the angry chants of a fruit vendor at the market, which was spread through a large alley. Chalking up a sly smirk, Squile dodged carriages and beggers to make his way over. Without any hesitation, he bumped into the nearest lamplighter, who fell backwards into the angry fruit vendor, spilling his inventory. The lamplighter and the fruit vendor got into it, all while Squile collected his earnings.

Now looking like a young, lumpy man, Squile ate his winnings casually, with several more to go in his pockets. The sky was blood red by the time he reached Mortigan's Square and well on its way to darkness. Squile caressed the brickwork of the square until he came to a corner of ivy. The ivy was everywhere, except for a gaping hole in growth near the bottom. Squile brushed off some mortar dust and pushed on random bricks.

A churchbell rang in the distance. The sun was coming down upon the city. The brutal light of the sky flodded the streets in the final gasp of the horizon's breath.

Squile, still tapping at bricks, clicked his tongue and bit his lip, wondering what he should do. It was one thing to visit The Range. It was something else entirely to sleep in its streets. He just had to get beyond the wall.

Finally, his fingers stumbled upon a groove in the dirt and he pulled as hard as he could. The brick rolled in its place with the sound of gears replacing the gutter talk and drunken chatter awash in the square.

The bricks parted to form a small, though truly grand, entrance into a stone courtyard. It looked desolate and abandoned. Squile made a face. This was not what he was told would be. The rumors and wild talk had always suggested the courtyard was lavishly adorned with the most curious garden in the city's history.

Dumbfounded and disappointed, Squile made his way across the courtyard, taking in the spectacular nothing around him. Deteriorating walls of once-majestic masonry surrounded him on three sides as he faced what appeared to be a long-forgotten spice store. Its wooden sign swayed in the lulling breeze. Dry leaves fluttered lazily. Squile's eyes took in the scene once more before he noticed the design below his cloth shoes. Beneath the weight of Squile's increasingly nervous stance, there lay a star within a circle. Squile inhaled quickly. A pentagram in stone is almost never a good omen.

He gasped, reconsidering his intentions. His breaths shortened and sped up. The brick behind him began closing, as stone rubbed stone. Squile sprinted to the hole in the wall, but would've been crushed if he had attempted to jump through it.

There now came a rumbling in his heart he was usually unfamiliar with. Fear, in all of its entangling trickery, crept through him like snakes. His eyes stayed on the pentagram. Could he climb the walls? He wondered. He would have to.

Moving uneasily to the pentagram, Squile lowered his body, ready to run and climb the wall. He relaxed his lungs, exhaled and regained his calm. This is not how the city will kill me, he promised himself.

But before he reached the end of his count, the courtyard exploded with colors. Squile blinked and straightened. In an instant, Squile was in the most breath-taking garden he had ever seen. Flowers he didn't recognize, trees he wouldn't have believed, mesmerizingly soft grass all circled a tiny pond in the corner. In the middle, underneath Squile's feet, the pentagram covered itself in ivy.

And then the door of the shop opened.

Squile spun around and was even more impressed with the shop's appearance. It looked new. Beautiful architecture swept over the shop, now with clean windows and fresh paint. Squile stepped out of the ivy, hyponotized by the beauty. His heart racing and his skin itching, Squile stepped onto the small porch and then into the shop.

The shop's interior was astounding. Walls of velvet, chandeliers of brilliance and endless shelves of world wonders filled the shop, which was overwhelmingly larger than the outside hinted at. Squile moved hesitantly through the shop. Jars of powder and liquid, neatly labeled, filled an entire wall's shelves. Another long shelf featured tanks of plants and mud, each beautifully labeled. Squile jumped as he noticed that each tank contained frogs. The frogs watched him move across the room, towards the other half of the room swathed in black. Squile gulped as he proceeded. More shelves came into sight, each one offering new things that Squile didn't recognize. It was a hall of dreams.

Squile heard a swift movement in the darkness beyond. A knife soared through the air, barely a whisper from Squile's ear, and dug itself into the door frame Squile had come through. Squile shook with anxiety. He trembled as he gritted his teeth, slowly building himself up for what may come.

The outline of a gentleman came from the shadows. He wore an elegant suit, with matching cape and top hat, and held a knife that he twisted into his fingers. The gentleman's calm voice both thrilled and terrified Squile.

"And what may I do for you?" the gentleman whispered in a slow, syrupy growl.

Squile warmed himself up with heavy breaths.

"I want to be a magician," Squile replied.

A thin smile carved its way up the gentleman's face.

"Oh, is that all?" he said. " Then come with me, for we have work to do."

And, with that, the gentleman turned and gently disappeared into the darkness.

Squile heaved a sigh, smiled sharply and then followed the magician into the shadows.

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